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Auditor Yost to Congress: Rooting Out Food Stamp Fraud Protects the Poor and Taxpayers
Auditor Yost testifies before the U.S. House Committee on Agriculture on July 6, 2016.
Columbus – Ohio Auditor Dave Yost today told Congress that he does not believe fraud is rampant in Ohio’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, but said it does exist and is “significant” given that $2.5 billion in food stamp benefits are issued to Ohioans each year.
“Food stamp fraud hardens the hearts of good people and deafens their ears to the sound of hunger,” Yost said. “Every dollar wasted or fraudulently spent is a dollar that could be used for its intended purpose: to feed the poor. For those who hunger, and for those who pay the bill, we owe a greater effort toward integrity.”
Yost shared findings of an audit of the Ohio Department of Jobs and Family Services (ODJFS) with the House Committee on Agriculture. The audit examined spending during the first six months of 2015 to identify structural program weaknesses but also found some instances of fraud. Among the findings: instances where dead people received benefits more than a year after their death and cases where someone was still using the card; 173 people with balances in excess of $5,000, including one with $20,000; $28.5 million spent at small retailers in even-dollar transactions in excess of $100, and; $28.7 million spent by Ohioans in states as far away as Texas, Florida and Minnesota.
“There is much more in the report,” Yost told House Committee members, “but all of it points to two things: weaknesses in the system that can be exploited to commit fraud, and a set of tools that can be used to manage the program better, much better.
“This is not limited to Ohio. Only about a quarter of the states have undertaken this sort of audit, but the results are similar across the country,” the Auditor said.
Yost encouraged federal lawmakers to consider an alternative approach to one-size-fits-all by giving states the ability to be creative and innovative so that the most efficient, fraud-resistant method to provide the needy with food assistance can be developed.
“The only iron rule in government, it seems, is the Law of Unintended Consequences,” Yost said. “When the federal government makes a change and there are unintended consequences, we all feel the pain if a reform fails. If the states develop their own management systems, failures will be limited to that state, and the successes and innovations will be there for others to copy.”
At the conclusion of the hearing, Rep. K. Michael Conaway, R-Texas, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, said the unusual recipient activity presented by Auditor Yost “is suspicious. … There is plenty of meat in your information, your data mining, for me to say that this should have been fodder for additional investigations. I understand the challenge of … small dollar errors, but nevertheless each of those chip away at the public integrity and the public support.”
A full copy of Auditor Yost’s testimony is available here.
Click here to watch a video of Auditor Yost and Rep. Bob Gibbs discussing the audit's findings.
The Auditor of State’s office, one of five independently elected statewide offices in Ohio, is responsible for auditing more than 5,800 state and local government agencies. Under the direction of Auditor Dave Yost, the office also provides financial services to local governments, investigates and prevents fraud in public agencies and promotes transparency in government.
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